Winning the war against waste: Zero Hero success stories

By Lyndsy Ortiz

Thursday, June 21, 2018

On Sandia's front lines, heroes wage a campaign to usher in an era of Zero Waste by 2025. The tasks aren't easy, but in such circumstances heroes arise. These Zero Heroes take on the tyranny of Tyvek suits, pummel the plastic foam platoons and even battle the bins of discarded badges. Their message is that everyone at Sandia needs to get in the fight. Sandia Zero Heroes are uniting to make a difference and help save the planet; however, these heroes can't do it alone. Sandia needs you to join the effort to reach the goal of Zero Waste by 2025. Read about the heroes who are already making a difference, learn from their inventiveness and environmental consciousness and visit to enlist and start on your path to becoming one of the few — the Zero Heroes.

Copeland Neely
Copeland Neeley — Battling badges beyond the badge office lines

The tide is turning in the battle of discarded badge holders at Sandia's badge office, thanks to Copeland, a personnel security specialist. He remembered learning about the Zero Waste goal by 2025 at his new-hire orientation and questioned whether there was a way to recycle the many used badge holders and security plastics thrown away at the badge office. Copeland obtained recycle bins from Sandia Sam for the multitude of collected plastics and collects the bins when they are full. Copeland had some advice to other aspiring Zero Heroes: "Look at materials you use and make small changes. Do your part." Copeland feels the 2025 goal is doable. "It will be very difficult, but achievable. The Zero Waste team knows their stuff, and their passion will spread through Sandia," he said. Copeland's words of encouragement come straight from the front lines of the Zero Waste effort.

David Blagg and Justin Griffin
David Blagg — Conquering Mt. Nitrile

In the battle to keep nitrile gloves from piling up into a mountain, David, a technologist, recognized how many gloves were being used and thrown away. At a trade show, David learned about one manufacturer’s recycling program and worked with Sam McCord (aka Sandia Sam), the Waste Management coordinator for the Zero Waste effort, to set up a Sandia account to ship used gloves to be recycled. David picks up the used gloves, boxes them to ship out and communicated his process to his team and building residents. “I like to be a good steward of the environment,” he said. David encourages others to become Zero Heroes. “People need to be pushed along, and they should send ideas for recycling to the Waste Management team.” David was recognized for recycling 2,500 pounds of gloves in 2017. To attain victory in the Zero Waste effort, Sandia needs more heroes like David. What can you do to make a difference?

Justin Griffin — Taking down the Tyvek tyranny

Tackling the tyranny of used Tyvek suits is no easy feat, but another Sandia Zero Hero was equal to the task. Justin, an ES&H technologist, works where Tyvek suits are used and discarded in high volumes. He followed the existing process of collecting them into a bin to be boxed up and recycled by the Pollution Prevention group. Justin, who was already familiar with the Zero Waste goal, took it upon himself to keep this process going when he joined the department. He recycles at home, which was a driving factor for him to recycle at work. He says everybody needs to do their part, both on the homefront and the front lines. Justin had some advice for future Zero Heroes: “Recycling is the right thing to do to keep waste out of landfill. If you see something can be done, do it. Network and brainstorm with others such as the Zero Waste team.” Great advice from a true Zero Hero. Will you heed the call and join the fray?

Sandia's journey to zero waste chart
Selina Pedroza
Selina Pedroza – Liberating buildings with Zero Waste

To see the progress toward reaching Zero Waste by 2025, look no further than the recent liberation of one of Sandia’s buildings to become the first truly Zero Waste building. Selina, an ES&H coordinator in the Primary Standards Lab building, started by combining Sandia’s annual Environmental Management System goals with an opportunity to increase recycling awareness for her building. Using her Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training, Selina led a structured improvement activity with building occupants and members of Sandia’s Environmental Stewardship and Pollution Prevention teams. Prior to the activity, Selina brought in a speaker from the P2 team to talk to the group about recycling and zero waste goals. Composting bins were offered so Selina and other volunteers could take the compost out of the technical area for pickup by a contractor. She is presenting the results of the activity and informing the team about the availability of the new recycling and composting bins. Selina has a positive outlook on reaching the 2025 Zero Waste goal. “I think people want to recycle; we just don’t always know what can be recycled. Once we bring greater awareness to the types of recycling opportunities, I think we’ll see an increase in recycling and accomplish our Zero Waste goal.” The path to victory in the effort to reach zero waste is being paved by heroes like Selina. Thanks for leading the charge!

Diane High and Lisa Teves
Diane High and Lisa Teves — Pummeling plastic foam at the Thunderbird Cafeteria

Pummeling the dominating presence of plastic foam containers was too much of an undertaking for just one hero, so Diane High, the general manager of the Thunderbird Cafe for Taher Inc., and Lisa Teves, a registered dietician who administers the Taher contract, teamed-up to eliminate plastic foam to-go containers from the cafe. Diane and Lisa were aware of the Zero Waste goal and the massive amounts of foam materials that were going to the landfill. Beginning in March, all to-go containers are recyclable or compostable. The cafe encourages diners to save money and resources by bringing in a cup or water bottle or buying a refillable one from the cafe. Refills are $1. “However, moving away from foam is really just an important start. Looking for ways to offer more locally-sourced foods and continually reducing waste and carbon footprint will be an ongoing effort,” Lisa said. Lisa and Diane are excited to contribute to the Zero Waste goal. “We need a lot more people to get involved for success,” Diane said. Lisa added, “If you plan to eat at the Thunderbird Cafe, please use a regular plate and silverware, and, if taking food to go, please take some time to learn more about using containers provided at the cafeteria and locations throughout the campus for composting and recyclables like plastic and aluminum.” Terrific team-ups are just one more avenue to a victorious Zero Waste effort. Why not join the team today?

Joe Martinez, Chrystal Sandoval, and Jeffrey Harkins
Joe Martinez — Clearing out the 3D cartridge trenches

Straight from the trenches of cutting-edge technology, one hero is tackling the need to recycle used 3D printing cartridges. Joe, a mechanical technologist who works in the 3D printer service center, noticed how the printer cartridges were piling up in his building. He also saw the hassle of boxing and shipping cartridges back to the manufacturer. Joe reached out to the Zero Waste team in the Infrastructure Operations Division and helped the team develop a process for boxing and returning used cartridges to the manufacturer to be reused. Joe then shared this simplified process with his team. Contributing to the Zero Waste goal sometimes is just a matter of doing the right thing. Joe says, “The simple thing is the right thing.”

Chrystal Sandoval and Jeffrey Harkins — Uniting for recycling victory

No victory is achieved alone in the effort to reach Zero Waste. Chrystal and Jeffrey work in Logistics to meet Sandia’s shipping needs. They helped Zero Hero Joe Martinez get the upper hand in the 3D cartridge skirmish by attacking the problem from a different angle. Jeffrey noticed that organizations packaged used 3D cartridges for recycling on pallets, but individual cartridges carried prepaid labels. To expose the labels, packers were forced to tear the pallet apart and individually package each cartridge for shipment. This process took extra time and resources, and completely voided the organizations’ packaging efforts. Jeffrey proposed that organizations work directly with the recycle company to obtain a single label for the entire pallet instead of 40-plus individual labels. His team lead, Chrystal, endorsed the idea, brought it to the attention of the team and brought in Sandia Sam and his team to help them modify the process. The new, singlepallet process lowers time, workload and cost and provides faster customer service. Jeffrey said he feels Sandia is up to the challenge of winning the Zero Waste effort by 2025. “We have to start somewhere; it’s difficult but can be done. People need to buy into the process.” Chrystal agreed, saying, “Sandians need to look at things differently and create a culture of change.” Chrystal and Jeffrey are shining examples of how united heroes can make difference. Are you ready to join their ranks?

Sam McCord
Sandia Sam

There’s one other hero worth mentioning who appears in many of these stories — Sandia Sam, who works on the Zero Waste team in Infrastructure Operations. Who is Sandia Sam? He’s the leader of the pollution prevention platoon who needs you to enlist today to help him and the rest of the Zero Heroes reach Sandia’s goal of Zero Waste by 2025. Not sure where to start? Sandia Sam is the man with a plan whose team will help you take the first steps toward making an impact in the Zero Waste effort on the front lines of your job or work area. Learn what Sandia Sam can do for you, and join the team to help propel Sandia to victory in its Zero Waste goal. Visit to enlist today and start making a difference. Together, we can reach Zero Waste by 2025.